Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie (And Why I Choose Grass-Fed Beef)

Too good for photos.
Too good for photos.

I’m excited to share this recipe today. I’ve taken this to many a potluck, and it’s always a hit! This superb Shepherd’s Pie features two of my favourite foods: sweet potatoes, and grass-fed beef.

I was actually never a huge fan of the classic Shepherd’s Pie growing up. Never cultivated that love of white mashed potatoes that so many people have. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, appeal to my massive sweet tooth – and lucky for me, they’re packed with good stuff, most notably beta-carotene. Also, sweet potatoes aren’t in the nightshade family of vegetables like regular potatoes are – this is important to note if you’re suffering from arthritis or any kind of inflammatory condition. Plus, they’re just pretty!

Before I jump to the recipe, let’s talk about grass-fed beef for a sec.

Why bother getting grass-fed, isn’t organic good enough?

Yes, organic beef is a great option, especially if that’s what your local grocery store carries and you want to make meatballs like, tonight. Organic is great! But grass-fed is better.

When you eat beef from a grass-fed cow, you know that the cow was raised completely naturally, on pasture, eating exactly what their digestive system is designed for. Cows are not designed to eat corn and other grains; their rumen is meant to digest grasses. Grain-fed cows get sick, and require antibiotics. As Michael Palin says, “You are what you eat eats”. Consequently, grass-fed beef (compared to corn-fed beef) is a richer source of omega-3, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and CLA (another beneficial fatty acid), not to mention protein, B vitamins, and even selenium and zinc.

Besides the positive health effects for you, when you buy 100% grass-fed beef, you’re supporting farmers that truly respect the biology of their livestock – you’re supporting sustainable agriculture.

You Are What You Eat Eats

Where can I find grass-fed beef?

Go to your local farmers’ markets and speak directly to the farmers. Ask about the kind of access their cows have to the outdoors. Ask if their cows are fed any grains or corn (many grass-fed cows are “grain-finished” in the last few months to fatten them up). You can also inquire at your local butcher shops about 100% grass-fed beef. Look for CSA-style meat shares. Explore eatwild.com and westonaprice.org.

So grass-fed beef is awesome. ‘Nuff said.

Without further ado, here’s one delicious way to use your grass-fed ground beef: Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie.

Here’s What You Need:

4 medium sized sweet potatoes, or 3 really large ones
¼ cup organic (or grass-fed!) butter
Optional: ¼ cup milk of some kind (or a little olive oil perhaps, but I’ve never tried this)
Sprinkling of turmeric
Sprinkling of cinnamon
Dollop of coconut oil or other cooking fat
1 onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb grass-fed ground beef
2-3 cups chopped veggies of choice (I like using carrot, celery, mushrooms, leafy greens, whatever I have in the fridge!)
¼ cup coconut aminos
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkling of paprika (omit if avoiding nightshade family)
Optional: chopped green onions

Here’s What You Do:

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Peel and chop sweet potatoes roughly. Prepare as you would normal mashed potatoes – boil or bake them, then mash up with butter, milk or oil if desired, and some salt and pepper. I like to add turmeric and cinnamon as well, for a subtly sweet and anti-inflammatory kick.

3. While the potatoes are cooking, heat a pan to medium and add coconut oil or other cooking fat (I sometimes use pasture-raised pork lard). Add onion, garlic, and beef, cooking until beef is mostly browned and broken up. Add veggies, coconut aminos, and salt and pepper. Mix well, cover, and cook until veggies have softened to your liking and the beef is fully cooked.

4. Put beef and veggie mixture into a casserole dish of your choice. Top with the sweet potato mash. Sprinkle the top with paprika, if using. I sometimes add chopped green onions to the top as well, for fun.

5. Bake for 20 minutes. I usually bake it covered, then after 20 minutes or so I put it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown and crisp the top just slightly.


P.S. When I say say ‘sweet potato’, I mean the orange coloured potatoes we tend to call ‘yams’. I have found this video beneficial in explaining the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

Disclosure: Some of the links throughout AlexJamesWellness.com are affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these affiliate links, I receive a small commission. Please note I only ever recommend products and services that I personally love, and the price remains the same to you whether you purchase via my link or not. Thank you for your support!

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Alex is a Holistic Nutritionist with a passion for helping people realize their full potential. After experiencing ill-effects from vegetarianism, Alex reclaimed her love of meat and adopted an omnivorous, yet truly holistic way of eating and living. She believes healing and balance can be found not just through the foods we eat, but the thoughts we think. Alex has a special interest in the areas of mental health, digestion & gut healing, and weight loss. She is based in Toronto, Canada, but also works with clients internationally via Skype.

7 thoughts on “Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie (And Why I Choose Grass-Fed Beef)

  1. Hi Alex,
    We are in the midst of sourcing a farmer who raises 100% grass fed cows. He said they are fed only grass and roam freely. Before..ahem…driving them to their fate, he feeds them barley grain for 100 days. He says he does this because it makes the meat taste better. Have you heard of this and do you think the beef still meets the criteria for 100% grass fed?
    I appreciate hearing your perspective!

    1. Hey Stacy,
      Yes this is a common practice, called ‘grain finishing’, to fatten them up. Some do consider the meat to taste better this way. Because they are getting grain though, they are not 100% grass-fed…grains are unnatural to cows and “we are what we eat eats”, so that’s something to consider. I would still say this is a far better choice than conventional beef, though, especially if you can see for yourself how the cows live, and you trust the farmer. If you have a lot of trouble finding 100% grass-fed, this is certainly a step in the right direction and I would think the quality would be better than conventional. Hope this helps.

  2. Hi Alex! Looks like a great recipe. I too am not a huge fan of the regular white potatoes. You mention twice in this article about “nightshade” foods. Do you have an article on what that is? I’m focused on anti inflammatory foods at the moment and I’ve not heard of this before.
    Thank you! Love your articles and information.

    1. Hi Stacy, thanks for your comment. I hope you enjoy the recipe! I haven’t written anything specifically about nightshades myself (yet), but simply put: nightshades are a family of vegetables that contain certain compounds that can influence the nervous system in some people, and contribute to joint pain/inflammation. Common vegetables in this family include: potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, paprika, and cayenne. You can search on Google for a fuller list, and/or check out this article on WH Foods: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=62

  3. Yum! Looks like a great recipe Alex. What are coconut aminos and why do I want them. I am totally obsessed with all things coconut so I’m very curious…


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